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article imageItaly's anti-discrimination head quits over gay sex scandal

By Ella IDE (AFP)     Feb 21, 2017 in World

The head of Italy's anti-discrimination office has resigned following revelations that government funds for combating sexual discrimination had been allocated to clubs offering gay prostitution services.

Francesco Spano's resignation late Monday followed a report by popular television show Le Iene ("The Hyenas") that set off a media storm, claiming the National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) had been funding "cultural" associations which hosted gay sex parties.

UNAR head Spano, who was responsible for allocating taxpayers' money to the associations, quit "out of respect" for the work his office performed, the government said in a statement.

On Tuesday he insisted the funds had been allocated in 2016 but not issued and an immediate stop had been put to the programme.

ANDDOS, the National Association Against Sexual Discrimination, which runs hundreds of gay clubs across Italy, had been set to receive 55,000 euros ($53,000), said Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Explicit undercover images broadcast on Sunday by Le Iene showed men using a "dark room", designed for those who want to engage in sexual activity with strangers, while the reporter was offered sexual services in return for money in three ANDDOS clubs.

Spano told La Repubblica on Tuesday that his resignation was "not an admission of guilt", though he could not explain why he was listed as a member of one of the clubs.

The association was supposed to "provide for the creation of support centres for victims of homophobic violence," he told Corriere della Sera.

- Call for investigation -

Italian consumer association Codacons on Monday demanded Rome prosecutors launch an investigation into the use of public funds by UNAR, which reports to the government's equal opportunities department.

"It is difficult to imagine that 'positive action' (against discrimination) could include in any fashion activities which include prostitution," it said in the request for a probe.

Italy's Catholic associations and parties on the right of the political spectrum had a field day, demanding minister Maria Elena Boschi, who is in charge of the equal opportunities department, provide explanations to MPs.

Giorgia Meloni, head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, said UNAR should be shut immediately, with "not one more euro of taxpayers' money thrown away on paying their salaries".

LGBT association GayLib warned against a knee-jerk reaction, saying UNAR helped tackle homophobia.

"We hope the government intervenes, not to close UNAR, but to verify who receives the money and if necessary demand it be repaid," its national secretary Daniele Priori said, adding that the reputation of Italy's gay movement was at stake.

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